Australia: Computing, Internet Diffusion & Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology
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The percentage of households that owned or leased a PC in Australia in 2003 stood at 65%. The number of homes with Internet access was slightly below PC ownership at 55% and is lower when compared to a similar country with regards to world economic standing such as Canada which boasts a 65% Internet access rate. Never the less, computing and Internet diffusion in Australia is well in place and comparable to other countries such as Canada and the United States.
The percentage of households that owned or leased a PC in
Australia increased from 60% in the 4th Quarter of 2000
to 65% in the 2nd Quarter of 2003. A high level of PC ownership in the community
is instrumental in promoting greater participation in the information economy,
as PCs still remain the most common technology used for Internet access
Personal computers are still the main device used by households to access the
Internet. In most countries for which data are available, more than half of all
households now have computers. While keeping in mind differences in survey
methodologies and household structure, there was a noticeable gap in 2000
between the Netherlands (69%), Denmark (65%) and Sweden (60%).
The percentage of households with Internet access at home in Australia has established in the last two years, showing a marginal increase in the 2nd Quarter of 2003 (from 54% to 55% or approximately 4 million households). Internet access at home, in this case, includes access through devices such as home and work computers, Palm Pilot technology, TV and mobile phone. The gap between PC households and Internet households has remained persistently around 10 percentage points for much of 2002 and 2003 .
The percentage of persons aged 2 years or more accessing the Internet via a home computer in Australia has remained relatively high from the 4th Quarter 2001 (57%) through to the 2nd Quarter 2003 (58%). This trend seems to indicate that Australia has reached a level of maturity in home Internet access, a situation experienced by most industrialized economies following the strong rates of growth typical of early stages of technology adoption .
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in the 1st Quarter of 2003, Australia had approximately 5,076,000 Internet subscribers (4.4 million households, 659,000 businesses and government agencies), an increase of 28% since the 1st Quarter of 2001. The number of household subscribers increased by 27% compared to 37% for business/government subscribers.
Internet access in households is soaring everywhere, especially in Italy where the access rate grew by 144% between 1999 and 2000, as well as in the United Kingdom (75%), Japan (74%) and France (73%). The propensity of households to access the Internet once they have a home computer differs across countries. It is highest in Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom and lowest in Germany, where only 34% of households with a computer have Internet access.
However, as subscriptions are accounting or billing points rather than
individual users, subscriber metrics provide only a limited picture of Internet
take up. The following set of data provides an overview of participation rates
and the characteristics of Internet connectivity across Australia’s household
and business sectors. No public sector data is presented in this report, but we
can assume that the majority of these agencies are already online as a result of
government initiatives to deliver services online.
The 3 reference periods considered in the graph above are December 2000, December 2001 and June 2003. During these periods the proportion of Australians aged 14 years and over who used the Internet from any site increased from 44% in December 2000 to 52% in December 2001, finally reaching 59% in June 2003, equal to a increase of 34% over the entire period. All age groups experienced increasing levels of online participation, with persons aged 55 years or more years recording the highest proportional increase in Internet use (61%).
An age profile of the population of online purchasers compared to the population of all Internet users 14 years and over shows that the vast majority of online purchasing activity is done by the more mature age groups. More than 80% of the population who purchase online are over the age of 25 years and about 46% are over the age of 40 years. While online purchasing occurs across all age groups, the activity is under-represented in the population under the age of 24 years and over-represented in the population aged between 25 and 54 years.
The share of adults using the Internet from any location is also increasing rapidly, and more than half of the adult population now use the Internet in Sweden (68%), Denmark (62%), Finland (54%) and Canada (53%). Apart from Denmark, the share of Internet users is highest in those countries with a relatively lower average Internet price basket over the 1995-2000 period.
As with the online payment of bills, the purchasing of goods and services online is weighted towards the higher income groups. After allowing for 15% of the purchasing population who did not know or refused to state their income, 40% (or just under half of the remainder) were in the $40,000 and over income group. The remaining 45% of the purchasing population are distributed across the lower income groups.
For the past five years Australia has experienced comparatively high levels of home Internet connectivity that has resulted in the emergence of a sizeable population of home Internet users with a growing level of online experience. Fifty eight per cent of Australians (some 10.8 million persons) are estimated to now have access to the Internet in their homes via a computer, while 7 million of these, 65%, are considered to actively use their home Internet access during any one month. These active home Internet users are increasingly aware of the opportunities and benefits the Internet offers in terms of information resources and online services. The increasing importance of pre-existing narrowband Internet users to future home broadband adoption levels in Australia is demonstrated in the chart below.
Since March 2002, the active home Internet population has grown by nearly 600,000 individuals or 10%. By comparison, during the same period, the population of active home broadband users has increased by 1,076,000 persons or just over 303%. In effect, 44% of the increase in home broadband usage during the period March 2002 to August 2003 is the result of pre-existing home Internet users substituting broadband for narrowband Internet access. More recently, in the period from March to August 2003, this substitution effect accounted for approximately 47% of the growth in home broadband usage. During this period the total number of home Internet users increased by 306,000 persons or approximately 5%, while the number of home broadband users increased by 578,000 or 68%.
The chart beside shows that currently home broadband users accounted for in excess of 21% of all active home Internet users compared to an estimated 5% of active home Internet users during June 2001.